Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu Reuters

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed in his attempt to split Israel's opposition party Kadima after it dropped its support for the government.

Kadima has abandoned Netanyahu's coalition following a protracted disagreement in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, over reform of the Tal Law - which exempts ultra-orthodox students from military service.

Netanyahu reportedly approached Kadima's Knesset members (MKs) individually and offered junior ministerial roles to persuade them to defect from their party, and help him create a new parliamentary faction.

However, only four of Kadima's MKs have voted to defect. Netanyahu needed a minimum of seven to create a new faction under Israeli law.

Kadima's leader, Shaul Mofaz, said: "Anyone who wants to receive political bribery - junior positions in a bloated government - and sell out his values" should leave the party.

Tal Law dispute

Although Netanyahu's coalition still holds 66 of the Knesset's 120 seats, his failure to entice enough Kadima's MKs means it is now highly likely that fresh elections will be held in January or February 2013.

The stability of Netanyahu's coalition hinged on support from Kadima, the largest-single party in the Knesset. However Netanyahu was unable to deliver the decisive, sweeping reform of the Tal Law which has been demanded by Kadima, a centrist party which does not believe that religious students should be allowed exemption from military duty.

Mofaz told Israel's Channel 10 that military service was "part of our DNA as Jews".

"We won't allow the prime minister to legitimise scandalous draft-dodging through political bribery and gift-giving," he added.